I have a question for you. Are there days when you are constantly on the move or in some kind of a rush? Every single day I hear you shout! I lead a small life and generally I have a very fixed timetable. Usually. There are times though when everything I’ve learnt about time management just goes out of whack. Whatever I planned for the day just gets thrown out of the window and I just…just…squeeze in the basic things on my to-do list. Do you have one of those? I do. Crossing out all the tasks rarely happens, no news there I guess, though I relish that yes-I-have-achieved-so-much-today feeling. Don’t you love that?
I had no idea what to write about today, but whilst browsing and processing some photos this morning I came across these pictures and wondered why I haven’t posted them before. This is a recipe that – at first – has left me indifferent. Eventually it did grow on me. You see, with baking, as with everything in life I guess, one must be ready to adjust and work with what one has. It’s very easy to buy loads of equipment/gadgets, only to be used once for one particular bake, then set aside and left unused for the rest of one’s life. I would buy a whole catering shop if I could, and in many ways, I try to limit what I buy (J would slightly disagree, but he’s a patient man, bless him); I must admit I still find it hard to resist that extra springform pan, or that lovely bundt tin with the gorgeous pattern – like those in the books!
I found the recipe for this cake in Cooking for Friends. (I have found a good compromise when it comes to recipe books: I buy them from Used sections, online or otherwise, as long as they are in good condition.) Skipping the majority of chapters, I went straight to the puddings and chocolates, as one usually does! You will find this as Coffee and almond crunch cake, but I opted to remove the “crunch” bit because the cake tin I used was too large and the crunch mixture didn’t hold on the top. So instead of purchasing another tin I used what I had. The topping didn’t work for me, but that didn’t stop me from making the actual cake, which is delicious. Here’s what I did.
- 170g unsalted butter, softened
- 170g golden caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon almond essence
- 100g ground almonds
- 4 tablespoons espresso, left to cool
- 100g self-raising flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- icing sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat the oven to 150ºC/Gas mark 2 (fan oven). Grease the base and sides of a 20-23 cm cake tin, preferably deep with a removable base.
In a large bowl beat the softened butter and sugar together until they turn light and airy. Then beat the eggs, one by one until just combined in the mixture, followed by the almond essence.
Gently fold in the ground almonds and half of the espresso.
Next sift the flour and baking powder, and using a spatula or a large stainless steel spoon fold these into the wet cake mixture. Add the rest of the coffee and be careful not to overmix the batter.
Tip the whole lot into the prepared cake tin and bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
This is a very light cake – really nice for the spring and summer months. Serve with ice-cream and/or some summer berries. (I am thinking that this recipe would also make lovely cupcakes or fairy cakes. Baking time will differ but I would say 10 to 15 minutes at 170ºC.) Enjoy!
(This recipe is adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Cooking for Friends, HarperCollins, 2008.)
I learn new things every day. From anyone. It doesn’t matter if on the other side of the bench there’s a chef or a home cook who’s doing the teaching. If something makes sense, it makes sense. That’s it. Done deal. I do have lots of respect for people who know their craft; those who have gone through years of classes and training in the best kitchens, with the masters. They took the time to train for excellence. Not a mean feat. They might seem arrogant, and arguably some are, but I would count to ten before saying so. Not all restaurants are the same. And not every chef is the same. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Gordon Ramsay or trying his food; still, through reading his work and watching the man on tv, whether from a restaurant kitchen or indeed at home, I feel I have actually learnt something. Please note that two books by Ramsay have been out on the same date: Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course (Hodder & Stoughton) and 3 Star Chef (Quadrille Publishing). The former accompanies a tv series, and has a very different style. Quadrille were kind enough to send me a review copy of the latter on the day of publication. Without diminishing the importance of eating well at home, cooking in a restaurant kitchen is obviously a very different thing. This book is about restaurant food at the highest level.
There’s no doubt about it: the guys at Quadrille know what they’re doing. Freshly pressed, everything about 3 Star Chef (the mini edition) points to one thing: Perfection…with a capital P. And that’s Gordon Ramsay for you. He needs no introduction, and for those who don’t know who he is, let’s just say that one doesn’t get three stars from Michelin for nothing. This book is Gordon Ramsay. You can tell as soon as you read what he has to say about this project.
First impressions are good. It’s white so it’s clean. The photos are stunning, the food exquisite, so it’s beautiful. There are a few photos of the Chef but this is meant to be a celebration of Ramsay’s accomplishments so far, so there’s definitely a place for them. The first half is glossy and shows off 50 of his trademark dishes at their best, whereas the second half is matte, snaps us out of nirvana, and explains how they are made (step by step, without any extra patronising). What I didn’t do this time is to try some of his signature dishes myself (something which I usually do for completeness), but hey, really, what is there to confirm about the food? There are some dishes which scare me, but others, like the Fillet of red mullet with cod, spring onion and pearl barely risotto, with a sweet and sour pepper sauce, seem attainable enough. At least to cook; I cannot really hope to replicate the presentation. I would also like to try my hand at the Carrot and white chocolate fondant with dark chocolate sorbet.
It’s easy to sort through which recipes one could reasonably try. However, some seem impractical as they need very particular ingredients; this is hardly unexpected in recipes of this kind, and substitutions aren’t acceptable (unless this is already indicated). Others cause logistical problems: what to do with any leftover ingredients. My only concern is the lack of a list of stockists, for those specialist ingredients. Though of course there is always the internet. If you want it, you can find it. Gordon will certainly not treat you like a kid. If you’re capable of mastering these types of dishes, then you probably already know where to get the ingredients from, or at least how to find out.
It’s a book that belongs in the kitchen as well as in the living room. Priced at a mere £20 it makes a nice gift for any Gordon fan. Quadrille have confirmed that this year’s edition has the same content as the signed limited edition of 2007. It just has been reduced in size. It’s not the kind of book I’d normally go for if I was merely browsing in a bookshop. Having said that, now I’ve spent some time reading it I’m not quite so sure.